DENVER — John Elway flashed that mile-wide grin and turned the microphone over to his new quarterback, Peyton Manning.
Talk about a powerful pair.
Introducing Manning as the newest Denver Bronco on Tuesday, the two Super Bowl winners each talked about hoisting another Lombardi Trophy, this time together. And soon.
“I realize I don’t have 14 years left, by any means,” Manning said. “This isn’t something where I’m just building a foundation to do something in two years or three years. This is a ‘now’ situation. We’re going to do whatever we can to win right now. That’s all I’m thinking about right now.”
Just so long as Manning’s surgically repaired neck goes along with the plan.
Neither he nor Elway has a doubt it will, and the Hall of Famer-turned-executive knew the NFL’s only four-time MVP was just what his club needed.
“I believe that he’s got a lot of great football left in him,” Elway said of his new QB. And if that’s true, the Broncos will wind up paying him $96 million over five years under his new deal.
The franchise has won only two playoff games since Elway’s career came to an end with a second consecutive Super Bowl triumph in 1999.
Denver’s last playoff victory came over Pittsburgh two months ago, when Tim Tebow delivered a stadium-rocking,
80-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime.
But things change, and in the NFL, they can change fast. Tebowmania is now a passing fad in Denver.
After holding up his new, bright orange jersey in a photo op with Elway and owner Pat Bowlen, Manning answered many of the questions that have been bouncing around since March 7, when his old team, the Colts, released him to avoid paying a $28 million bonus and set in motion one of the most frenetic free-agent pursuits in history.
The first issue on everyone’s mind: So, Peyton, how do you feel?
“I’m not where I want to be. I want to be where I was before I was injured,” Manning said, referring to the neck problem that kept him off the field in 2011 after he’d started every game for the Colts for the previous 13 seasons. “I have a lot of work to do in getting to where I want to be from a health standpoint and learning this offense. This is going to take a ton
As far as being the man who could bring about the end of Tebow’s stay in Denver, Manning said: “I know what kind of player Tim Tebow is, what kind of person he is … and what an awesome year he had this year. If Tim Tebow is here next year, I’m going to be the best teammate I can be to him, he and I are going to help this team win games. If other opportunities present themselves to him, I’m going to wish him the best.”
On Elway’s role in leading him to choose Denver over other suitors, the most serious of which were the Titans and 49ers: “Everyone knows what kind of competitor he is as a player. I can tell he’s just as competitive in this new role. That got me excited.”
And so, the deal – the club’s most dramatic since Elway was acquired from the Indianapolis Colts in 1983 – was sealed.